First of an ongoing Wanderlust series on the state's parks, forests and public grounds.
November's almost here, which means many Houstonians are thinking about two very important words: “general” and “season.”
The general hunting season begins on November 1 for white-tail deer enthusiasts. Many will spend their fall weekends out on the lease with family and friends, waiting throughout the nighttime and early morning hours for a buck or two. Otherwise, they'll go to the parks.
From November 16 at 5 p.m. to November 21 at 7 a.m., licensed parents and their camouflaged kids will will descend upon Brazos Bend State Park 28 miles southwest of the city for its first scheduled closure due to “wildlife management activities.” Once there, they'll participate in one of the state's many time-honored traditions, one that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department generously supports: population control.
Despite the use of “wildlife management activities” as a bureaucratic misnomer, its referent is important and necessary. Whether it's sport or management, hunting is an important part of what TP&W does. Plus, I hear it's a lot of fun. Too bad I never participated.
Just as our editor Scott Vogel scandalously admitted in our September issue, I never learned to hunt. As of this writing, I am a native Houstonian who lived all across Texas for 27 years before deciding to relocate to Boston in 2013, and I have never hunted a day in my life. The closest I've ever come to hearing the “snap” of a fired weapon is the sound Reese Witherspoon's Elle Woods makes when demonstrating the “bend and snap” maneuver in Legally Blonde.
I visited Brazos Bend for the first time when I was 18. With my father and two younger brothers in tow, we trekked out to the park for a day trip. Or, as dad would say, a “scouting mission.” We were planning a family camping trip, and since Brazos Bend wasn't too far away from the city, we decided to check it out.
Little did I know we were on a hunting trip. It wasn't general season, and we were by no means adhering to official policy, but we didn't have to. My father wasn't carrying a rifle, me and the boys weren't scoping game and waiting our turn with the big gun, and nobody was wearing camouflage.
Instead, my dad was between jobs. He'd just come off a major contract gig, working in the city's renowned petroleum industry, and he was now “on the market.” Or, as he likes to say, “between jobs.” So when he wasn't busily updating his résumé or calling connections, he spent his free time with his boys.
He took us hunting. Except his was a personal hunt, and we were his distractions. Like wearing a suit for a phone interview, even though the person on the other line cannot possibly know you're not wearing pants, my dad took us to Brazos Bend to snap himself back to reality and remember why he needed to find work.
In a sense, my father's “general season” lasts a bit longer than the one TP&W prescribes for white-tail deer. Yet our family trip to Brazos Bend encapsulated many of the same experiences Houston families go looking for in the nearby state parks this time of year.